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Tales from Afield: Hooked on whitetails

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The author uses a spotting scope to look at white-tailed deer. PHOTO BY KADEN RICHARDS

By Andrew Hermance EBS CONTRIBUTOR

My passion for whitetails started off long before I could even hunt. My dad was, and still is, big into hunting white-tailed deer with his recurve bow, and that is where I got it from. Already by my first year hunting, at 12 years old, I knew I wanted to harvest a white-tailed buck with my bow.

My dad helped me get my PSE Nova compound bow all ready to go and I spent all summer practicing. Opening day of bow season came and we had the stand set in a patch of timber that my dad knew deer would go through. That evening I climbed into the stand and patiently waited. About 45 minutes before dark I had three does and one velvet spike come by. I was eager and excited, ambitions set on taking a buck—any buck—with my bow.

All the does took a trail to my right and the buck took the trail that came in front of the tree stand. He passed beneath me at 5 yards. I pulled my bow back and let the arrow fly and the rest is history. That was the day that really got me hooked on bowhunting whitetails.

Fast forward to 2016, and I had gained permission to hunt on a new property. Not knowing what kind of potential this property had, that year was more or less a figure-it-out year and see what was around. I quickly learned that property had a ton of deer and held some big bucks.

I ended up harvesting my first buck with a traditional bow that year. Though I had shot does with the traditional gear before, it was a great feeling to finally be able to take a buck. Since that day, I haven’t picked up a compound.

The following year I told myself I was going to put more time than ever before into scouting throughout the summer, trying to pattern a mature deer for the upcoming season. I spent three or four days a week from June till opening day of bow season in September, watching all the deer, getting a sense for their movements, and picking out which deer I’d try to hunt during the season. I had four bucks picked out and patterned going through one little area on the property. My buddy and I hung a stand there and just waited for the season to come.

The week before season, two of my bucks quit being active in the daylight so I was narrowed to just the remaining two deer. With opening weekend foreboding super-hot temperatures, I had my doubts, and ended up not making it to the stand until the third day of the season. Walking into my stand that evening, I bumped into one of the two bucks that I was going to hunt that night, but wasn’t able to make a shot. With him spooked, I was now down to just one buck.

About 30 minutes before dark, I spotted deer moving on the river bed. I pulled my binoculars to eyes to see if my buck was around when all of a sudden, he came through the brush right next to the tree my stand was in. He stopped just 10 yards away.

I grabbed my bow as he moved closer to the tree and at 4 yards he turned and quartered away, giving me a perfect shot. I drew back and let the arrow fly, watching as it hit my target. I was in such shock of what just happened.

To successfully take a mature buck, and to do it with a traditional bow, sent excitement and adrenaline coursing through my body, fueling my love of bowhunting whitetails.

It was time to set a new goal. My next ambition was to take a big, full-velvet buck.

Going into the 2018 season, I wanted to take a deer with my grandfather’s old recurve. I didn’t have much time to scout that summer, so on opening weekend I was just trusting my instincts. I set up in the same spot where I’d taken the buck in 2017 with my traditional bow. As I sat in the stand on opening evening, there was very little deer activity around me. I started to wonder if I’d made the right choice, but remained in the stand, waiting it out.

About 10 minutes before dark, a buck I’d patterned in 2017 stepped out into the open and walked by my stand, some 15 yards away. I drew back and sent the arrow flying. The shot was marginal, and after discussing the shot over with my dad, we decided it would be better to wait till morning to look for the deer. The next morning, after picking up the blood trail and a quick 60-yard track job, we recovered the buck.

I can’t begin to explain my love and respect for whitetails. After spending so much time watching river-bottom whitetails—learning their habits and behavior—I think they’re one of the most fun animals to bow hunt. Maybe it’s the personal challenge, maybe it’s part time spent in the woods, but there’s just something about it that keeps me coming back year after year.

Andrew Hermance was born and raised in Bozeman, where he currently works at Extreme Plumbing and Heating.

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